Carlos Saura Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Carlos Saura 1932–

Spanish director and screenwriter.

Saura belongs to the generation that grew up under Franco, and the theme of the Spanish Civil War plays a major part in his work. While his early films use allegory as a means of masking political criticism, Saura's more recent work analyzes the psychological effects of a repressive society.

As a film student in Madrid, Saura resented pressure to create heavy-handed religious dramas. Instead, he opted to make a neorealistic film. Los Golfos features a young amateur cast, and its youthful focus helped Saura escape the political commentary of the censors. While Saura was eager to depict the evils of Franco's regime as accurately as possible, he could not be explicit. The necessity to alter the truth creatively stimulated moral commitment as well as artistic inventiveness. In La Caza, a hunting party serves as an analogy for war. However, because of heavy symbolism, Saura's early films are considered too allegorical and ponderous to enjoy.

In his next films, Saura often reverted from past to future to show various stages of character development. The Garden of Delights relies heavily on fantasy as well. Its use of grotesque imagery and surrealistic symbolism have led to comparisons with Buñuel. La Prima Angélica (Cousin Angélica), the first Spanish film to view the war from a loser's vantage point, indicates Saura's interest in the emotional intensity of children. To Saura, childhood is not a time of happiness, but an intensely frightening period. This same emphasis is found in Cría Cuervos, which underplays social forces and concentrates more on children's emotional perceptions.

Some critics feel the political urgency pulsating through Saura's earlier works has disappeared since Franco's death. Saura says he made political films as a moral obligation, but prefers now to concentrate on psychological studies.